Category Archives: Essays

Essay Up on Scarymommy.com

“Eventually, at the age of ten, I found myself invited to a party during which reverberations of profanity echoed through the night air of the backyard like tender kisses being blown through the breeze by wood nymphs. With the chaperoning adults inside the house, my fifth grade peers felt a refreshing wave of freedom and power.”

http://www.scarymommy.com/swearing-more-often-children/

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The Strength of a Child

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As challenging a life as I sometimes think I have, it’s nothing compared to the torturous turmoil and ceaseless suffering endured by my six-year-old-son.

Each morning, upon rising from ten or possibly even only nine hours of sleep, he is chronically faced with the devastating psychological trauma of an iPad that was not charged the night before and therefore only possesses four percent of its battery life.  Hardly enough energy to power through a game of solitaire, never mind a round of Avengers’ Contest of Champions or even Flappy Goat.  Even more humiliating, he is usually blamed for the oversight of not plugging in the iPad and must defend his honor.  Loudly.

My son must survive throughout the week on an exponentially smaller wardrobe than the rest of the family due to a debilitating ailment that prevents him from putting away his clothes. This condition causes a category of blindness that only affects his ability to see articles of clothing on the floor, although visualization of other objects, such as legos or video game controllers, is not affected. Tragically, there’s no cure or treatment currently available.

Each day, my son must deal with the tremendous stress of being forced to ‘eat healthfully’, precisely defined in our house as three meals that don’t all include chocolate milk. The agony of being obliged to consume raw carrots is written across his furrowed brow in unspoken sorrow….unless it’s being spoken at full volume and with a slight nasally whine.   

Constant physical issues plague my son.  Nearly every day, and sometimes hourly, my son must tolerate random aches and pains that seem to materialize without rhyme or reason. Whether it’s a sudden twinge in his pinkie toe or an agonizing but somewhat vaguely described popping feeling in his ear, my son’s only recourse is to provide a detailed and regularly updated report on his latest series of discomforts, punctuated intermittently with vocal validation of his pain, such as ‘Ow! Ow!’  Thankfully, most of these problems seem to respond immediately to chocolate ice cream.

Occasionally, my son will experience violent fits, which tend to occur immediately after being asked to set the table or sort socks.  He’ll temporarily lose the ability to communicate except in loud shrieks and exclamations of negativity.  Sometimes his state will devolve even further to include writhing and flailing on the floor. This corporeal trauma only seems to abate after desperate pleas and negotiations concerning television privileges.  By that time, my son is so physically exhausted, he must drag himself up the stairs while moaning and complaining noisily, poor fellow.

My son is cursed with a vivid imagination and curious nature. He is compelled to inquire about a host of random and trivial subjects which may or may not include a discussion on the potential martial arts skills of adolescent reptiles, a post-mortem on all the flavors of soda he has ever tasted, or a demand for the number of minutes he has been alive.   Ironically, requests for information about HIM are typically answered with ‘I don’t want to tell you.’

My son’s remarkable resilience despite the brutal torments he must tolerate day in and day out is truly inspiring to me and everyone else in the household. Despite all his hardships, he typically ends each grueling day with a brave smile. As long as that day ends with chocolate ice cream….For medicinal purposes, of course.

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New Essay on Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop

‘“What is that smell?” I will wonder aloud, my nose wrinkling, as I pass through the hallway outside the kids’ toilet and contemplate whether someone has been careless enough to let an alley cat into our home. Perhaps my sons have somehow regressed to the point at which they feel the need to mark their territory, although the cheery pirate bathroom motif should really suffice.’….

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Restless Room

bathroom-691341_960_720Although I am not particularly squeamish about using public restrooms that may be described with a list of adjectives that does not necessarily include ‘sterile’, ‘spotless’ or even ‘clean’, I have recently developed a strong aversion to entering a specific bathroom that is right down the hall from where I live. In my own house. And belonging to my own children.

This space, which USED to resemble a bathroom, but now has taken on a certain post-apocalyptic war-ravaged feel, is the only room in the house that appears impervious to the bi-weekly cleanings I pay someone else to do. Like a haunted attic that just won’t stay cobweb-free no matter how many times you dust, my boys’ restroom seems to revert back to its previously characteristic state of horror seemingly within moments of my cleaning lady’s exit through the front door.

“What is that smell?” I will wonder aloud, my nose wrinkling, as I pass through the hallway outside the kids’ toilet, and contemplate whether someone has been careless enough to let an alley cat into our home. Perhaps my sons have somehow regressed to the point at which they feel the need to mark their territory, although the cheery pirate bathroom motif should really suffice. 

I’ve tried ignoring the existence of the bathroom and hoping any visiting guests will do the same, but that’s about as difficult as concealing a crack den in an otherwise tidy two-story suburban residence – you’re just bound to notice one room is a bit…off. 

So, on occasion, my husband and I will force ourselves through the threshold and survey the damage. Aside from the distinct aroma, we will marvel at the amount of toothpaste that appears to be growing up from the tile on the sink, like an insidious blue-green sparkly mold that has broken out of a science lab petri dish and intends on devouring our home, surface by surface.  

Until we look closely, we’ll assume that something has exploded within the basin itself, as tiny white ricochet marks seem to cover the entire expanse of the ceramic. Upon further inspection, we’ll realize it’s a Jackson Pollack pattern of toothpaste, saliva and tiny bits of whatever else happened to be swirled around in someone’s mouth and then shot out in a detonating eruption. 

My husband and I stand aghast for about as long as we can muster up the strength (which isn’t very long), before loudly demanding the presence of our sons.  

“What is this mess?!” I will bellow.

“What mess? By the way, I got an eight out of ten on my English test,” the older one will rapidly fire out, as he takes on the persona of a diminutive Jedi Master attempting to supernaturally compel our attention from the state of the bathroom to something else entirely.

“I think the toilet is dripping.” My younger son’s approach is to place the blame on anyone else, especially inanimate objects that cannot argue in their own defense. 

“Oh, there’s some dripping going on, but not from the toilet…” I remark, while pointing my finger and furrowing my brow in a way that suggests less television and dessert if matters are not attended to immediately. 

Painfully, I coerce my children into cleaning the bathroom. Unfortunately, my sons are about as effective at it as I happen to be, which is why I hire someone else to do it in the first place. Sigh. Perhaps she has a free day this week.

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Parenthoodwinked

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One of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is convincing your child that you have some idea of what you are doing…because you usually don’t.

“I don’t need a jacket today,” my six-year-old will report to me on mornings that I look out the window and observe ice falling from the sky.

“You need a jacket,” I will insist, “It’s freezing, and you are only wearing a t-shirt that appears to be two sizes too small.”

“But, I’m not cold,” he will reason, as if logic is something he uses on a regular basis.

“Put on your jacket,” I will counter.

“But, MOMMY WHHHHHHYYYYYYY?” His voice will go up several octaves and level out in a long whine like a dying balloon looking for a safe place to land on the floor.

“Because,” I will pause and then utter those words that all parents swear never to use: “I SAID SO.”

Providing such rationale is typically a dead giveaway to any child worth his salt that you have exhausted all your ‘real’ answers and have gotten desperate. My older son, aged ten going on 40, is especially salty.

“I really think you should join a soccer league,” I will say on occasion, varying the suggested sport with each season.

“Not interested,” he will murmur from the couch, the glowing reflection of Minecraft dancing in his eyeballs.

“You’ll make some new friends,” I will point out, “And, you could really use the exercise..”

I’ll go over a prepared list of data points and supporting research to validate my position, like a freshman on the first day of debate club, usually getting monosyllabic counter-arguments or grunts in reply.

Finally, I’ll give up. “How do you know you don’t like something if you don’t try it??” I’ll wail, exasperated.

Here, he’ll glance up briefly and inform me, “I’ve never tried having my brain eaten by zombies, but I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t like it.”

Obviously, my children are getting older, and they are becoming more aware of the fact that at any given time, as a parent, I am winging it. “Because,” is increasingly less convincing as an answer for questions like, “Why can’t I have a bowl of jelly beans for dinner?” or “How come I have to wear pants to Grandma’s party?” Really, I just don’t know.

Recently, I overheard my older son instructing his brother on the finer points of a video game they were playing.

“Why do I need to defeat ALL the bad guys on this level?” the six-year-old questioned.

“Because….,” his brother paused, “I said so.”

At least I’m not the only one who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

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I Admit It: I’m A Cyberchondriac

For the past week or so, I’ve had a minor sore throat—nothing keeping me up at night, just a slight twinge of pain, mostly in the morning when I swallow down that first glass of water. Although I haven’t rushed out to a doctor or walk-in clinic yet, I have been spending my free time pondering the possibilities of whether it’s allergies, stress, a postnasal drip, or perhaps the first symptoms of throat cancer. 
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Hate.

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Despite a historic lack of experience or proficiency on the matter, I recently discovered a hitherto hidden talent in myself – the aptitude of abhorrence.

And, while I have used the word ‘hate’ in varying degrees of articulated emotions, I was likely wasting it on matters that now seem clearly trivial.

“Hate is a strong word,” my mother would comment after I expressed my feelings as a child about the slimy, gelatinous slices of ooze on my plate that she assured me were zucchini.

“You should never say hate,” I remember my grandmother instructing, although her passionate religious convictions probably precluded her from participating in the colorful discussion I hoped to have about the girl in my third grade class who stole my idea about what to play at recess.

In the universal sense, I hate ignorance and mass genocide and people who don’t clean up their pee after using public toilets.   But, personally, apart from my proclivity for the dramatic and need to embellish narratives about my daily life in order to provide more entertaining accounts to friends and family, I don’t think I have ever put in the effort it takes to truly hate anything or anyone.

Until recently.

It didn’t happen all at once. It grew like a pervasive, resistant virus, attaching its thorns into my heart and taking root in my brain. Some days I would fight it, using logic and common sense to dampen the heat that seemed to be constantly building within me. Other days I would embrace it, relishing the validated rage I felt by poring over injustices that had been committed against me.

Hate is tiring. It requires a dedication of time and energy. It involves hours of obsessive thoughts and dark fantasies. The kind that pull you away from your regular responsibilities and demand your full attention.  It steals your sleep and eats away at your joy.

Hate takes a toll on your body. It quickens your heartbeat and gives you a sweat. It blurs your vision and fills your ears with a cloud of noise. It hardens your expression and puckers your lips.

Hate makes you a bore. It constricts your conversations into repetitive rants and alienates your friends and family. It opens a faucet of negativity that flows from your mouth, spills out all over the floor and must be stepped over cautiously by relatives unlucky enough to be listening.

Hate is irrational, illogical and uncontrollable. It is intolerant, angry and vicious. It is fearful, gathering in the shadowy recesses of your soul feeding off distant memories of anguish or struggle. It’s fueled by anxieties of the indefinite; to hate is to throw a lasso around the unknown and brand it for yourself.

Hate is pointless. It sickens without a cure, weakens without an ending and deteriorates without closure.

There is no resolution. But, eventually there may be diminishing, given the right evolution of circumstances. A softening, like a lens that readjusts as a point of reference recedes in the background.

As dark and vibrant as my hate feels today, I am clinging to the hope that it will soon fade.

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The Two Types Of People You Meet When You Are Turning 40

There are two types of people who will tell you that “Life begins at 40,” or “40 is the new 20,” or any of that other nonsense that people feel obligated to console you with as you approach a milestone that (optimistically) marks the middle of your life.

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Three Things I Could Have Said to the B*tch at Target

angry woman

Picture the scene, dear readers: after several months of my husband being overseas and four weeks of my oldest son visiting his father up north, we were finally preparing for a two week vacation, the first of those weeks to be spent at the beach with family. Although packing for vacations is not something I particularly enjoy or excel at, we made a token effort to pick up a few necessities at our favorite neighborhood money-sucking establishment: Target.

“You guys should really get some sunglasses for the beach,” I suggested to my sons, aged 10 and five. In late July, the youth sunglass department had dwindled down to a few clearance items, so the pickings were slim. After several rounds of negotiating (‘how about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ones?’) each boy secured a pair and we shuffled off to the register to pay.

My younger son, who is at the age at which he must tear through packaging or tags of whatever new item he has acquired before even leaving the store, was eager to put on his glasses, which had a picture of a tiny American flag over each lens.  After the cashier scanned them through, my husband began to peel off the small sticker that proclaimed them to be ‘100% UV Protective’. But, as the sticker came off, so did a bit of the striping on the flag image, leaving a mottled gap in the paint. (or whatever toxic chemical had been used to color on top of each lens)

“Uh oh,” my husband said, and showed me the glasses.

I turned to my son. “Do you still want these?”  I wasn’t shocked when he made a sour face and shook his head.

The cashier, a young, pretty girl said helpfully, “If you want, I’ll just charge you for these and you can go pick out a different pair.”

“Thanks!” I smiled as I looked around at the long lines and felt grateful for the few extra minutes of saved time, as it was already approaching 6:00 p.m.

I waited with the purchased items at the front of the store as my husband led the boys back toward the sunglass rack. But a few minutes later, his face reappeared with a look of irritation which let me understand that no other sunglasses were deemed by my son as fashion forward as the original pair of patriotic shades he had selected.

I rolled my eyes and checked my watch. It was 6:15, stomachs were beginning to growl and now we would have to retrieve the glasses to return them, which could mean another 15 minutes of lines and waiting. Annoyed, mostly at my son, I marched back to the register where we had checked out.

I saw the pretty cashier, already in the process of assisting another customer, who was casually conversing with her. I waited a moment for a break in the conversation (I swear on my future grave, I waited) and then said quickly, “Hey, I’m sorry, I just need to get those sunglasses back, because my son decided-“

“OH MY GOD, I WAS TALKING AND YOU JUST INTERRUPTED ME.” The female customer turned to me with a look of actual disgust on her face.

Immediately, my face burned with unexpected embarrassment – I felt electrically shocked by her reaction. I went into apology mode: “Oh, I am really sorry to have interrupted, sorry about that, I just….”

That was all I had time to say because as I was saying it, the woman turned her face away from me as if to mutter under her breath, but instead said loudly, “SO FUCKING RUDE.”

I stood with my mouth open, agape and horrified, transfixed by this situation for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably about three seconds. The woman turned back to the cashier, said “ANYWAY, AS I WAS SAYING…” and continued her conversation, as if I was a ghost who had just disappeared. For a split-second, I examined her: she looked normal; a fairly young woman with a top knot on top of her head and trendy clothes, with an appearance that did not scream ‘I might be unstable, proceed with caution.’ Her male companion looked straight through me – if he had any thoughts about what had just transpired, he had no intention of letting me know. Desperately, I glanced at the cashier, who looked troubled, but averted her eyes. It was difficult to know if she was a friend of this psychopath or was just caught in a triangle of awkwardness.

At this point, my shock evolving into rage at the outrageously ill-mannered behavior of this woman, I realized I had three options:

1. Turn to the woman and say, “How dare you speak to me like that! This is a store, not a dinner party, and I need to get a pair of sunglasses that we left here at the register. You have incredible nerve calling ME rude, when you are acting impolite!”

2. Turn to the woman and say, “What the fuck did you just say to me, you bitch? I cannot believe your fucking attitude! Go fuck yourself.”

3. Turn to the cashier and say, “I’m not sure you heard me the first time, but I need those sunglasses back. I’m going to excuse the behavior of this woman here, because she obviously left the house this morning without taking her meds.”

In reality, I didn’t do any of those things, although I obsessed about all of them for hours after we left the store. Instead, I sputtered,

“Was that really necessary?”

I stood impotently shaking with anger and embarrassment for another second as she continued to ignore my existence, and then I stormed off.  Yes, dear reader, I RAN AWAY from this bullying woman, and found my husband.  “You need to get those sunglasses, because I just can’t, I can’t even…” I stammered. 

He retrieved the sunglasses from the cashier, (later, he told me he had just walked over and said, “I need those sunglasses,” and she handed them over without a word) returned them at customer service and guided us all out, even as I ranted and raved.

“What a fucking bitch,” I said, not caring at all about my language in front of my sons. “I can’t believe that just happened! What the FUCK was her problem?”

“Well, here she is,” my husband pointed her out walking back to her car, “Should I run her over?”

“Yes,” I muttered, but instead I glared at her from the safety of my passenger seat. I couldn’t calm down and kept reliving the confrontation over and over and over. I was angry at the woman for acting like a jerk, but mostly I was angry at myself for feeling so helpless in that moment, for feeling like a child instead of a 40-year-old woman, for not being able to think of a witty or angry retort, for letting her make me feel so furious, for cursing so flagrantly in front of my children, for considering the possibility that she might actually think I was the one that was rude, for not being able to blow off what essentially boiled down to discourteous behavior.

By the time we got back to the house, I was still seething with rage and disappointment in myself.  That was when my oldest son casually remarked, “I actually think what you said was the best thing you could have said.  Because it was calm and showed you weren’t aggravated.”   

As I played through the scenarios of what COULD have been said and how each of those situations could have escalated, I felt slightly better about the reality of the situation. I may be terrible at confrontations, but I guess I’d rather be a wimp than a bully.

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Self-Promotion: New Essay on The Mid!

“As I felt increasing pressure about what I needed to look or act like, I longed to wake up one morning as a boy, throw on whatever T-shirt smelled the freshest, run a comb through my hair (or not) and feel ready to walk out of the house as Ferris Bueller or Marty McFly, convinced I’d be judged on how cool I was, not how pretty I looked. If I could not get to live that fantasy, I’d live it vicariously through my sons.”

http://www.themid.com/family/hair-apparent?u=tuJoIzgm84

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